Alameda Collectables Shop Goes Space Age

Rocket Reuse has a museum-like 1950s installation in its window. Photo by The Modernist

The Modernist may be modern but he is in most respects an old fashioned kind of guy who enjoys nothing better than perusing cool little shops in cool little downtowns. Do you share that inclination?

Then make your way to Rocket Reuse, a store that’s as much a museum, almost, as a store. To make matters even better, it’s on Park Street, a commercial strip that screams small town 1950s, on the island city of Alameda, which is itself a trip back into time.

Sure, when all is said and done, Rocket Reuse is a place that primarily sells used books and CDs. There’s a great selection of books for kids, including some collectables. But the store is much more. How about those crates of 45 rpm records (“only 46 cents each unless marked otherwise”)? A selection of vintage fashion and jewelry, teapots and doodads?

Rocket Reuse adds much to the already lively streetscape, with a quintessential early 1950s living room recreated in its deep-set shop window, a child watching a blurry B&W tube TV, a long-haired Mom in a tight sweater, even a rocking horse.

Inside there’s a vintage phone booth leading to the store’s dressing rooms. And, of course, there’s a rocket.

Browsers search for pleasure inside the shop on a weekday evening. Photo by The Modernist

“I definitely wanted to have a space-age theme, a throwback to the Fifties,” says owner Eric Nelson, who has operated the shop for four years and lives just blocks away. “It’s one of my favorite styles. I love mid-century modern furniture, buildings.”

Nelson says he competes successfully with online retailers by “selling things pretty cheaply.” Vinyl records are hot these days and, he says, “There’s been an influx of teen girls who love Ray Charles, for some reason.”

The shop clearly fills a niche in the city of Alameda. “It’s like a community center for downtown,” Nelson says. “You meet friends here from around the neighborhood.”

“What I love about Alameda is, it definitely has this small town vibe. I call it urban suburban. It’s close enough to the city that it gets that urban feeling, a lot of different cultures. But it’s small town. You know your neighbors and run into five people you know walking to your car. There’s a real retro vibe, time slowing down here.

With this posting, the Modernist begins a series looking at cool, retro or otherwise up-our-alley stores, hangouts, and other attractions in and around our mid-century modern neighborhoods – or occasionally beyond. Know a good spot? Let us know.

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